Cover photo credit: Thomas G. Barnes



“Endangered” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.

Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List

The American Columbo was already assessed as endangered when the Endangered Species Act took effect in 2008.

What it looks like

American Columbo is a perennial herb of the Gentian family. Each year, more leaves are added to the basal rosette (a circular arrangement of leaves radiating from the stem) of the plant with older leaves extending as long as 40 centimetres.

It takes several years before a single two- to three-metre tall flowering stalk is produced.

Where it lives

American Columbo grows primarily in open deciduous forests, and to a lesser extent along open forest edges and dense shrub thickets in Ontario.

It is most commonly found in dry upland woods, but in parts of its range it has been found in grasslands, moist woods and swampy habitats.

Where it’s been found in Ontario

American Columbo is widely distributed in eastern North America, ranging from southern Ontario west to Illinois and south to eastern Oklahoma, northern Mississippi,and western South Carolina.

In Canada, American Columbo is only found in the Carolinian forest region of southern Ontario.

There have been 22 populations recorded in Ontario. Based on field surveys in 2004 and 2005, 13 populations are currently believed to exist.

map of american columbo range

View a Larger version of this map (PDF)

What threatens it

Habitat loss and encroachment from invasive plants such as Garlic Mustard, Common Buckthorn, Dame’s Rocket, Japanese Barberry, Multiflora Rose, Pale Swallowwort, White Sweet Clover, and Tatarian Honeysuckle are the greatest threats facing American Columbo in southern Ontario.

At least three of the current populations are considered at risk from development.

Action we are taking

Endangered Species and their general habitat are automatically protected

Recovery strategy

A recovery strategy advises the ministry on ways to ensure healthy numbers of the species return to Ontario.

Read the executive summary (November 22, 2013)

Read the recovery strategy (November 22, 2013)

Government response statement

A government response statement outlines the actions the government intends to take or support to help recover the species.

Read the government response statement (December 15, 2014)

Review of progress

A review of progress made toward protecting and recovering a species is required no later than the time specified in the species’ government response statement, or not later than five years after the government response statement is published if no time is specified.

Read the report on progress towards the protection and recovery of 16 species at risk, including American Columbo (Frasera caroliniensis) (2019).

Habitat protection

General Habitat Protection - June 30, 2013

What you can do

Report a sighting

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry tracks species at risk such as the American Columbo. Report a sighting of an endangered animal or plant to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.


  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Be a good steward

  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find American Columbo on your land, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Invasive species seriously threaten many of Ontario’s species at risk. To learn what you can do to help reduce the threat of invasive species, visit:
  • Pollinators, such as bees, are in steep decline across the globe and they play a key role in the survival of many of Ontario’s rare plants. For information on how you can help scientists monitor pollinator populations in Ontario visit Seeds of Diversyty.
  • The Carolinian forests of southern Ontario support an amazing diversity of plants and wildlife, including many species at risk. Carolinian Canada is working to help recover species at risk and their habitats.

Report illegal activity

Quick facts

  • American Columbo may live for many years but it flowers only once and then dies.
  • Two new populations of American Columbo were discovered in Ontario during 2005.
  • American Columbo was used for a wide range of medicinal purposes by the Cherokee Nation, including as a tonic, antidiarrheal, antiemetic and a disinfectant.